Selfishness & Startup Life Stories


People are inherently selfish…  this is true.  They will do what’s in their best interest.  It’s part of being human.  Therefore, a smart company will align an employee’s interest with their own.  One of the worst parts of owning a startup is training.  Training people is hard.  It takes time and resources.  And even with the perfect student… you can fail.  And after you are done training… they can leave for green pastures.  This happens a whole lot with developers.  Especially with ones who think they are better than they are.

A nice transition into how startups can use personal self interest to fuel their company.  The easiest way is to give bonuses for executed jobs.   If you deliver this, you get X bonus.  This works well.  Another is commission.  Giving never ending commissions on accounts for helping retain them is a plus.  The personnel responsibly will treat it like their own… since they are making money from it.  The last is equity which is the best, but often most costly way to align interests.  Of course you can protect the company with a vesting interest in case the employee bails.  There are other interesting legal options as well.

The one employee type you want to avoid is a person who is in it just for the money.  They are more likely to leave and are probably applying for jobs right now.  And they are less likely to help the startup achieve its goal… because in their mind they will be leaving soon anyways.  These employees can last 6 months… maybe 12 months max… but they aren’t the type of people who have the startup’s best interest in mind.

Selfish people are great for startups… if their interest aligns with the startup.  Otherwise they become lazy and sometimes worst..  destructive.  On occasion, you may have a team member who is willing to help the team even against his or her personal interest… treat this person well.  If you continue to treat them poorly they will leave.  Finding a job… isn’t difficult for this person.

This rarities, are what make a successful startup.  People willing to take less money and more equity.  Someone interested only in money.. doesn’t work for a startup.  They will hamper your team…  and create dissension since typically they are paid more.  Startups have lots of equity to work with… but sometimes lack the raw capital to recruit the highest level of talent….  Therefore people interested in only  salary… really have no place in a startup.  The math simply does not work.